Etienne Capoue faces the very real prospect of being named on the bench tomorrow for the first time in the Premier League as a Watford player.
Capoue has started every league game since he was signed for a then club record fee from Tottenham Hotspur, which is testament to his levels of fitness and his value to this side. He was an unused substitute for the FA Cup third-round tie at home to Newcastle United and was left at home for the fourth-round tie at Nottingham Forest because he was feeling under the weather.
His performances have dipped alarmingly since the turn of the year, reaching a nadir against Southampton and then Swansea City and culminating in him being withdrawn 12 minutes after half-time against Bournemouth on Saturday. The head coach sounded this morning like he was seriously contemplating naming him among the seven substitutes at Old Trafford tomorrow, with his place likely to be taken by the more disciplined Mario Suarez.
“I have very good communication with Capoue,” said Sanchez Flores. “I talk a lot with him. He knows perfectly what I demand from him. I felt very quick in the second half [against Bournemouth] he is not very concentrated because he is tired.”
Sanchez Flores has likened Capoue, when playing at the top of his game, to former Atletico Madrid technician Tiago and the ex-Valencia maestro Ruben Baraja. “He could play in the best teams in Europe,” said Sanchez Flores speaking in November.
Capoue, 27, produced two of the standout individual performances of the season, at home to West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United while he ran himself to a standstill against Arsenal. Yet’s he’s been off the pace of late and dipped below the high standard he set for himself, perhaps because this is his first full season in three seasons. He played 18 times for Spurs in each of the last two and his campaign was done by January 24th last time out. He has already played 28 times this season and there are at least 12 more games to play.
“Capoue is a very important player for us but he has played nearly every minute,” said Sanchez Flores in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s game. “I felt he was a little bit tired. He wasn’t clear in his mind and wasn’t choosing [the correct options] well. It isn’t normal for Capoue but it’s possible [that he was tired]… I have no worries about him.”